A few years ago, the Local History and Genealogy Division received a generous grant from the Gleason Foundation to create an interactive, mobile-friendly website that engages K-12 students, as well as the general public, in the study of local, state, national, and even global history by allowing users to explore the letters, diaries, interviews, and other personal accounts of Rochesterians who experienced the past first-hand. The result is Rochester Voices, a website that offers direct digital access to the unique historical materials from the Local History and Genealogy Division’s special collections, and those of our partners. Visit the site here and discover these stories of the past for yourself.
The most recent addition to Rochester Voices is the George A. Custer collection, prepared for online publication by one of our impressively talented student interns, Shane Swann (SUNY Brockport). Although the famous Civil War general was not actually from Rochester, he had family in the area. This collection includes Custer’s correspondence with his beloved cousin, Augusta Frary, who lived in Canandaigua and Albion, New York.
As a historical figure, Custer is perhaps best known for his role as a Civil War general and for his “Last Stand” at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, when he led his regiment against a substantially larger Native American force, resulting in a severe defeat for the U.S. Army, as well as his own death. In the five letters that constitute the Custer collection, we get a glimpse of the man behind the legend, from his youthful antics as a subpar student at West Point to his zeal for the excitement and adventure of war to his familial tenderness towards his cousin, wife, and children.
In typical Rochester Voices fashion, the Custer collection “brings history to life” by capturing Custer’s experiences in his own words. Visit Rochester Voices and explore Custer’s stories, as well as the stories of other historical figures who were once connected to the Rochester area.
~Michelle Finn, Deputy City Historian